The Lent Study programme in our diocese is concerned with ‘Welcoming The Stranger’; one of the things it seeks to do is to get us to look at our own preconceptions and prejudices.
Prejudice is a strange thing.
In 1993 we took our summer holiday in September. It was much cheaper and the roads were much quieter.
We meandered down through the middle of France, staying in the Auvergne, before heading down to Argeles on the Mediterranean coast near the French-Spanish border.
Because it was such a lengthy trek, it is hard to remember precisely the details of the towns on the way. But there was one small town where we stopped for a picnic lunch. The place was quiet, the local children having all returned to school. Our son, Michael was just short of his third birthday and spied swings and a seesaw on an open patch of green near to where we were parked. He and I made for the swings.
We were there for about five minutes when a local man appeared from among the houses and started to remonstrate with us in fast, provincial French. The giste of what he seemed to be saying was that the swings were reserved for the use of the children of the town.
I did my best to apologize for my transgression at which point he exclaimed that as we were not Parisians, we were welcome to use the swings – and he turned on his heel and returned to his house.
It was an astonishing piece of prejudice; a middle-aged man coming to object to a three year old being on a swing because he thought that we might have come from Paris.
How would Jesus have responded to such a man?How would Jesus respond to all of our pet hates?